Monday, April 2, 2012

Baroque celebration enjoyable

Beauty of Baroque, Knox Church, Friday, March 30

Knox Church in Dunedin was packed on Friday evening for "Beauty of Baroque", presented by City of Dunedin Choir, Southern Sinfonia, David Burchell, guest organist Simon Mace and six soloists - sopranos Pepe Becker and Grace Park, mezzo-soprano Amanda Cole, counter-tenor Christopher John Clifford, tenor Stephen Chambers and bass Julien van Mellaerts.

Handel filled the first half of the programme, beginning with Utrecht Te Deum (1713), a grand work with sacred text for choir, soloists and baroque orchestra. From the very intro of this work, I felt the orchestra set a good performing standard for the entire evening, bright toned with well-judged subtle trumpet gilding.

The choir too, was in excellent form, generally well-balanced, despite the 23 to 7 ratio of basses to tenors, but I had mixed feelings about some of the solo work.

Soprano duet To Thee Cherubin and Seraphin, achieved a fine blend, but some of Becker's later work, although well-intoned, showed disappointing technical support at climactic exposures. Cole's lower register lacked fullness of tone, with lower melodic phrases regularly falling short in projection. Her When thou tookest upon thee ... was totally overshadowed by glorious woodwind counter melodies.

Commendable counter-tenor tone quality was regularly lost through "head in the book" syndrome, consequently undermining vocal ensemble balance.

Tenor and bass delivered with beautiful tone, intelligent phrasing, and prudent strength. Laetatus Sum (Charpentier) and J S Bach's Magnificat showed similar vein, though a highlight was a tenor solo sung by Chambers with realistic fortitude and conviction.

A brilliant performance of Concerto in B Flat for Organ Op 4 no.2 by Handel showed Burchell as master of the pipe organ. Supreme dexterity ensured clarity and unblemished co-ordination throughout four short movements of contrapuntal texture. Nicholas Cornish conducted the ensemble from his position at 1st oboe.

Review in the ODT, 2 April 2012, by Elizabeth Bouman

Were you there? What did you think of this performance? We welcome feedback from the audience! 

1 comment:

Leta said...

Comment received from Deborah's friend, by email:

What a marvellous concert! Thank you for encouraging us to attend. I don't think I've ever heard the Choir sing better and feel that Knox lets you be heard as you really sound. It was absolutely top-notch, and such a sensitively chosen repertoire to showcase the era. Thank you all again.